A Village Called Versailles

The enlightening documentary, A Village Called Versailles, which has appeared on PBS and is being show theatrically in several cities this fall, is now available on DVD . This award-winning doc tells several stories, all of which have to do with the eastern New Orleans community of Versailles, which is home to thousands of Vietnamese families—refugees who came here following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, and their children and grandchildren.

Versailles is named for the modest Versailles Gardens apartment complex where the first refugees settled in the late seventies. This thriving virtually all-Vietnamese community, about 20 miles east of the French Quarter, is anchored by Our Lady of Vietnam Catholic church, and had been a community that few people knew about. Until Hurricane Katrina, that is, when the area was flooded out and its residents were forced to flee (some to the same refugee camp in Arkansas where the were sent when they arrived here).

The community hit the local spotlight, though, months later when the city of New Orleans decided to dump mountains of debris in a landfill right next door. The documentary, ably produced and directed by S. Leo Chiang, focuses on how the community rallied against the landfill, and, in the process, came into the limelight.

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